FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With last weekend’s season-opening loss to the LA Galaxy still fresh on its mind, the New England Revolution will be looking for a bit of redemption on Saturday night when the club visits Eastern Conference foe D.C. United at RFK Stadium.
As eager as the Revs will be to forget about last weekend’s result and secure their first points of the season – especially against one of their most bitter rivals – United will be just as motivated to improve upon its season-opening performance, a 4-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards.
Head coach Steve Nicol is well aware of the dangers posed by playing a team coming off a heavy loss.
“If it was us, I’d be hoping the players would be like that,” Nicol said when asked if D.C. might have any extra motivation because of last weekend’s result. “So yeah, we have to be careful.”
Nicol believes that the best way to approach D.C. is to be the aggressor from the start.
“We have to start well and not give them any encouragement,” he said. “If we can put them on their heels early, then maybe the crowd will go the other way and instead of backing them up, they might turn against them.”
Perhaps one of the main reasons both New England and D.C. were unable to secure points in their season openers was the current injury situation plaguing the clubs. Each team will have to overcome the loss of several key players if they hope to earn a result on Saturday night.
United will be without influential midfielder Clyde Simms, who recovered from preseason knee surgery in time to start the season opener against the Wizards, but suffered a left hamstring strain in that match and is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Also unavailable will be defender Marc Burch – who started 25 games for D.C. in 2009 – while he recovers from right foot surgery.
Bryan Namoff (post-concussion symptoms) and goalkeeper Josh Wicks (L shoulder surgery) were also listed as out on Tuesday’s injury report, while Devon McTavish was questionable with a groin strain.
The Revolution can sympathize with United’s injury woes, as New England was without seven players – many of them key contributors – for the season opener against the Galaxy.
Chief among the missing for the Revs was 2009 league MVP finalist Shalrie Joseph, who has been fighting to return from a right hip flexor strain.
Joseph’s activity was limited during training this week, but he remains cautiously hopeful that he’ll recover in time to make the trip to the Nation’s Capital.
“I feel good,” Joseph said after training on Wednesday. “I’m still making progress. It’s going to be a day-to-day decision. Right now, I’m just trying to get back into fitness and trying to get my legs right.”
Also questionable for this weekend’s match is defender Darrius Barnes, who – like Joseph – missed the season opener with a right hip flexor strain. It was the first game Barnes missed in his professional career after appearing in all 37 games in all competitions in his rookie year last season.
“They’re coming along,” said Nicol in reference to Joseph and Barnes. “They’ve both got a chance, so hopefully they’ll make it.”
Meanwhile, Taylor Twellman (concussion), Matt Reis (L shoulder/L knee surgery), Edgaras Jankauskas (R calf strain) and Nico Colaluca (L knee sprain) were all listed as out on the midweek injury report, while Mauricio Castro will be unavailable while serving the second game of a two-game suspension.
One player who is healthy and will likely be in the starting lineup on Saturday night is rookie forward Zack Schilawski, who led the Revolution in preseason scoring and impressed in his professional debut against the Galaxy.
After the Revs conceded much of the possession in the opening 45 minutes in Los Angeles, Schilawski was pleased with the way they responded with an impressive second-half performance.
“I think one of the things to be excited about was I thought we showed a lot of improvement over 90 minutes,” he said. “I’m excited to see what we do this weekend. I think we’re improving every day, getting more comfortable and more confident, so I think it’s a good sign.”
Third-year veteran Chris Tierney – who was active in a left-sided midfield role against the Galaxy – agreed that the Revolution’s second-half performance against LA should provide a launching pad into Saturday night’s meeting with United.
“I thought in the second half especially we kept the ball and passed the ball decently well,” he said. “We created a couple of chances that I think as we get a little more practice in training we should finish off.”
With another week of training under their belts, the Revs will have their chance to put themselves to the test on Saturday night at RFK Stadium.